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RIM announces PlayBook tablet

It's not called the BlackPad after all, but otherwise the predictions of a new, iPad-esque tablet computer from BlackBerry Research In Motion got it about right

The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm unveiled its upcoming iPad competitor, called the PlayBook, at an event Monday afternoon in San Francisco. As earlier stories had predicted, this thin and light device (.4 in. thick, .9 lbs.) is built around a seven-inch color touchscreen, includes front and back cameras for videoconferencing and runs a new operating system -- not RIM's almost-new BlackBerry OS 6.

blackberry_playbook_navigator_pr_image.jpg

RIM touts the PlayBook -- due out in early 2011 at an unannounced price -- as "the first multiprocessing, multitasking, uncompromised browsing, enterprise-ready professional-grade tablet." The "uncompromised" adjective refers to its inclusion of Adobe's Flash Player -- banned on the iPad but which will ship on upcoming tablets running Google's Android operating system.

But unlike those competing devices, the PlayBook will initially ship with only WiFi, not 3G or 4G mobile broadband. It also won't arrive able to run a catalogue of existing apps; even the relatively paltry selection available through BlackBerry's App World won't run on the PlayBook's new OS without a rewrite.

Some key aspects of the PlayBook remain a mystery. Forget naming a price; RIM didn't even say how long it can operate without a recharge. Noted ZDNet blogger (and former Postie) Sam Diaz in his writeup of RIM's event said:

The company talked up a lot of the specs and the performance but not once -- not in the on-stage presentation or in the press release -- was there a mention of battery life.

It's also unclear how RIM plan to market the thing. Its press release and many of the PlayBook's touted features -- such as a form of pairing with BlackBerry phones, "subject to IT policy controls," that lets you view content from the phone on the tablet -- appeal to RIM's traditional business customers. But the presentation on RIM's site and even the name "PlayBook" suggest a pitch to home customers. Trying to split the difference rarely works; the things that IT departments want rarely coincide with the wish lists of home users.

Who do you think RIM is going after with this device? And how well will it succeed -- would you put the PlayBook on any gadget shopping list of your own?

By Rob Pegoraro  | September 27, 2010; 6:19 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets, Mobile  
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Comments

"But the presentation on RIM's site and even the name "PlayBook" suggest a pitch to customers. Trying to split the difference rarely works; the things that IT departments want rarely coincide with the wish lists of home users."

Rob,

Did you mean to say consumers instead of customers? If so, I agree that it is tough to please both the corporate and the personal user. BB seems to be rapidly losing consumers to Android and Apple. The heavily-invested BES users will certainly be slow to change and a secure (remote wipe) touch device may appeal to that relatively stable customer base.

Posted by: thw2001 | September 27, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

@thw2001: Good catch. I meant to write "home customers" and have now fixed that.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 28, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I think seven inches is about the right size for a tablet. So BB has gotten one of two critical factors correct (form and pricing), but it remains to be seen about the pricing. Like for the Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Battery issue is certainly another consideration. If it is like a Kindle in terms of battery, it would be a home run. However, Blackberry has already been tagged with the slow-to-innovate black mark. It's no longer seen as being exiting and new so it will be very hard for the company to pull out of its techno-cultural death spiral, because that is what it is.

Posted by: manfromtallahassee | September 28, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

It is impossible to say. The PlayBook shown at the reveal was turned on at the end of the show, but that's it. The first commercial for the PlayBook uses it as a prop. The way RIM left so many questions unanswered is like the 'float a rumored product and see what happens' position Microsoft used to take. Remember that it showed UMPCs and teased us with Origami for months.

Posted by: query0 | September 29, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

I think 7 inches is perfect for a tablet. My company is very keen to obtain the Playbook for our employee bonus plan. It would be great to have the Playbook by year's end to add to our holiday bonus package. I have personally contacted RIM to inquire about the availability of the Playbook for this holiday season. It is very likely to happen. RIM is a level-headed company and very well managed. They will not reveal information unnecessarily until they have the foundation work securely grounded. This is very unlike Apple, where there is too much drama and hype to distract the users attention.

Posted by: Albert7 | September 29, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I think 7 inches is perfect for a tablet. My company is very keen to obtain the Playbook for our employee bonus plan. It would be great to have the Playbook by year's end to add to our holiday bonus package. I have personally contacted RIM to inquire about the availability of the Playbook for this holiday season. It is very likely to happen. RIM is a level-headed company and very well managed. They will not reveal information unnecessarily until they have the foundation work securely grounded. This is very unlike Apple, where there is too much drama and hype to distract the users attention.

Posted by: Albert7 | September 29, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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